Sistering

Written by Shagana Ehamparam

Image by Lisa Vollrathhi (via amplifier.org)

Sistering is a multi-service agency offering practical and emotional support to cisgender women and trans people who experience social isolation, homelessness,  precarious housing, trauma, violence, discrimination, substance use, or mental health struggles. Our programs and services enable people to take greater control over their lives. We work in collaboration with others in the community to change the social conditions that endanger trans people and cisgender women’s welfare.

Sistering began in 1981 when the government started de-institutionalizing services across the province. Women were being discharged from mental health facilities without adequate community support; staying in shelters or rooming houses. It was a mixed group of women, with representatives from women’s agencies, community residents, and women who were living in shelters. This included newcomers, women fleeing from violence, women who were widowed and pension-less, women living on the streets, sex workers, and substance users. They were alienated from their families, and community supports were very insufficient. Employment opportunities for unskilled women were scarce. Even those healthy enough to work could not readily become self-supporting. 34 years later — similar issues still exist where women are socially isolated through the marginalization of services that do not speak to their language, culture, ethnicity, class, sexual identity, and orientation, ability, etc.

In November 2015, Sistering became a 24-hour Drop-In. This was in response to a homeless woman who was assaulted twice in the same night in front of a city building, due to the lack of available shelter beds. It became increasingly evident that there was a need for a safe space for all women and trans people.

Sistering’s vision is a world where all women and people of diverse trans identities are safe, respected, valued, and treated with dignity. We operate through a low-barrier model, meeting people where they are on their personal journeys. In 2018-2019, Sistering had 20,000 overnight stays, conducted 600+ housing referrals, served 138,023 meals, distributed over 5,000 harm reduction kits, supported 82 participants at our social enterprise Spun Studio and gathered 8,933 attendees for social events & outings. Sistering is also a fearless advocate in the city of Toronto for affordable housing and transit as well as access to mental health services. For instance, for the last 9 years, Sistering has been a part of the Fair Fare Coalition and contributed to the TTC’s implementation of the Fair Pass Discount Program. 

If you are interested in supporting Sistering and the broader community at this time, you can support in the following ways:

  • Make a financial donation online
  • Donate any one of these items in a plastic bag 
    • New underwear, bras and socks
    • Incontinence pads
    • Tim Hortons Cards ($5 or $10 denominations)
    • Grocery Gift Cards like Frills, Fresh Co, Walmart ($25 denominations)
    • 8x8x3 Hinge Containers for takeaway meals (Unused and sealed, preferably compostable)
    • Sanitizers (Unused and sealed, any size)
    • Masks and Gloves for Front-line Staff (Unused and sealed)

We are only accepting these items by appointment at this current time. Please email fundraising@sistering.org to arrange this as well as if you have any additional questions.

  • Volunteer with the Friendly Neighbourhood Hotline, an initiative run by the University Health Network’s Open Lab which we are partnering with. The hotline delivers groceries and other household essentials to vulnerable seniors. Learn more at www.uhnopenlab.ca/project/hotline/
  • Sew a fabric mask to support the Michael Garron Hospital’s #MGH1000masks initiatives. Sistering’s Spun Studio is participating in this to not only create additional equipment supply for our staff but to also support the larger community. Learn more at www.mghf.ca/mgh1000masks

Follow us on social media for our latest updates: @SisteringTO on Facebook and Twitter, @sisteringdropin on Instagram.  If you have any questions please contact Communications and Development, Senior Associate Shagana Ehamparam at sehamparam@sistering.org


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